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Scottish junior doctors to be balloted over industrial action

Junior doctors in Scotland are set to be balloted on strike action, after “reluctantly” entering into a trade dispute with the Scottish Government.

It comes after leaders of the British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland said talks over pay had failed to reach agreement.

The organisation’s Scottish Junior Doctors Committee said it had now “reluctantly entered into a trade dispute with the Scottish Government”.

Committee chair Dr Chris Smith said: “We are now forced to plan to ballot Scottish junior doctors on strike action over pay in the first quarter of next year.

The ballot on industrial action is set to take place in the first quarter of 2023, subject to the approval of the BMA UK council.

The BMA previously announced that junior doctors in England will be balloted for industrial action in January.

The BMA Scotland said: “Pay awards for junior doctors in Scotland from 2008-09 to 2021-22 delivered real terms pay cuts of 23.5%.

“With inflation continuing to rise, this year’s 4.5% uplift is again being outstripped and the position on pay erosion will be worse by the end of the year.”

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Dr Smith said: “We need to show the Scottish Government that now is the time that junior doctors in Scotland say enough is enough.”

He stated: “As the health service limps through the end of a pandemic that it entered already at breaking point, junior doctors are being asked to do more and more.

“We are burning out and struggling to afford our heating bills in the process.”

Dr Smith said some junior doctors in Scotland, who are “making life or death decisions and staffing wards across the country” were earning a basic salary that equates to about £14 an hour.

He insisted: “After years at university, and after some of us have incurred huge debts, this is not good enough – and it is not sustainable.

Hospital stock
Junior doctors are making life and death decisions about patients (Peter Byrne/PA)

Dr Smith continued: “I want to be absolutely clear that we did not reach this decision rashly. We do this reluctantly.

“We have given the Scottish Government plenty of opportunities to rethink this year’s pay award which is, frankly, unacceptable under the current circumstances, and commit to entering into meaningful negotiations on restoring junior doctor pay to 2008 levels.

“They have given us no confidence this will happen, and so we find ourselves forced to push forward with our plan to seek approval to ballot our Scottish junior doctor members on strike action.”